Busman’s Holiday is brothers Lewis and Addison Rogers, a pair steeped in the fine art of songsmithery, built simply with the classic tools of a guitar and a suitcase drum kit. Addison was part of Jens Lekman’s last touring band and Lewis was the original guitarist for Sleeping Bag, also on pioneering young label Joyful Noise Recordings. On A Long Goodbye, their debut album, they’re joined by Jamie Thompson (The Unicorns, Islands) and Sebastian and Alexander Chow (also of Islands).
To get a flavour of their sound, Jens Lekman and the Sufjan Stevens/freak folk stylings are probably most salient, but there is also the irrepressible jauntiness as seen in the output of Islands and The Unicorns. The album was obviously created to be an album in the traditional sense of a long player, seen even in the symmetry of the first half, ending with “Alone”, and the second, starting with “Not Alone”. Other similarities could be drawn to the recent albums of Field Music, Arcade Fire and older conceptual albums like The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle.
Central to A Long Goodbye is the anchoring provided by the brothers’ warm and gentle harmonising. The trust built on the basis of this, coupled with the simple guitars and judicious use of strings, allows the structures to roam free and tickle the listener’s brain in charming ways, without ever being difficult. One exception comes with the curious choice of opener “Bones I”, which descends into a dissonant improv piano deconstruction resembling Aladdin Sane-era David Bowie, the only moment on the album that could be construed as misjudged.
The lyrical content for the most part is homely and grounded, references to nature and the natural world abound. They tackle relationships, families, loves, lusts and sometimes outer space, all in a euphoric, balladic chamber-pop. The lyrics are informed by kitchen sinks and campfires, as seen on second track “Child Actor”:
Dilapidated motor home
Telephones sing dial toneTV’s glow dimmer
As families eat dinner
A Long Goodbye was recorded and produced by Mark Lawson (Arcade Fire, Islands) in the legendary studio-in-a-church owned by Arcade Fire outside Montreal, not long before it was abandoned due to a collapsing roof. The production really is exquisite throughout. Producers can of course define or limit a band (think Brian Eno’s rejected production of Television’s Marquee Moon) and sometimes they can pull from within the depths of musicians something utterly beautiful, and arrange it like an artist might on a canvas.
Here’s how they announced the album release:[vimeo 87640382 w=500 h=281]
For me, this album has a strong claim on album of 2014 so far. It’s hard to believe it is a debut album, and exciting to think what a sophomore might bring. This could be due to the pair having spent the past four years touring extensively and honing their sound with the most reliable of all arbiters, a live audience.
A Long Goodbye is available on CD and vinyl from Joyful Noise Recordings.
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